Jobs in Europe
We have heard
countless stories of Sri Lankans and indeed other South Asians
braving risky sea journeys to Europe in rust buckets that pass
off as vessels.
The ultimate aim of these youth is illegal migration to
Europe and a better lifestyle than in their Third World
countries. Only a few manage this feat - almost all such illegal
migrants end up in European jails or face immediate deportation.
While the International Organisation for Migration and other
similar organisations strive to tackle this problem, there is a
far better alternative: Legal migration. Unfortunately, Europe’s
reputation as Fortress Europe has not helped this cause.
The expansion of the European Union to 25 countries and the
resulting intra-EU migration is perhaps causing the EU to close
their doors to nationals of other countries.
But the indications are that these countries are changing
their thinking on this issue at last. The truth is that both
Western Europe and the rapidly advancing Eastern Europe need
foreign labour. Besides, legal migrants and job seekers add
variety to the cultural milieu of the host nations.
Thus the step taken by France, Poland and Romania to provide
jobs for Lankans is a step in the right direction. This is the
result of a successful tour undertaken by a high level
delegation headed by Minister for Foreign Employment and Welfare
Keheliya Rambukwella. Sri Lanka is set to sign MOUs with Poland
and Romania before the end of the year and with France in
Accordingly, skilled labour opportunities in industrial,
construction and hospitality sectors would be on offer for Sri
Lankans who possess skills and qualifications in accordance with
The latest opportunity is expected to provide prospective
Lankan job seekers with better salaries and perks in comparison
to employment opportunities in the Middle East and Asian
This is a golden opportunity for professionals in these
sectors to find employment avenues in France, one of the most
industrialised nations in Europe and Poland and Romania, two
rising economies of the new Europe. There is no doubt that other
countries in Europe will come forward to recruit Sri Lankans in
One of the prime requirements for the prospective job seekers
will be language proficiency. The Foreign Employment Bureau
(FEB) should conduct the relevant language courses for selected
job seekers so that they can integrate and communicate easily
with their employers and other locals.
They should also be told to get trade and educational
qualifications which will be readily recognised by these
The Bureau in recent times has initiated a number of steps to
discourage the common practice of sending unskilled domestic
workers and to encourage skilled migrant labour for higher
The employment offer from Europe will be an impetus for this
decision and will enable Sri Lanka to shed its wrong image in
some countries as an exporter of unskilled housemaids. Moreover,
the new opportunities will give more males the chance to go
abroad for employment.
The expansion of the labour market abroad will be a good omen
for the country. According to latest statistics the Sri Lankan
migrant worker fraternity is considered to be in excess of 1.6
million with another 220,000 new recruits joining the numbers
annually. Migrant worker remittances are only second to the
income earned through apparel exports.
Considering the growth rates in the recent times foreign
employment is set to eclipse apparel exports as Sri Lanka’s
biggest foreign exchange earner in the near future. With the
higher salaries granted in Europe, this figure can only go up.
Sri Lankan authorities are also taking more concrete measures
on migrant workers’ welfare. Authorities in recent times have
signed MOUs with UAE, Jordan, Libya, Bahrain, Korea and Kuwait
seeking better protocol on issues related to Sri Lankan migrant
workers. Sri Lanka plans to enter into similar MOUs with Saudi
Arabia, Malaysia and Japan in the future.
Our embassies abroad must play a major role in this regard.
There should be constant liaison between the FEB and these
embassies on the job opportunities available. They should be
widely publicised so that prospective employees can apply
through the FEB and legal agencies safe in the knowledge that
they would not be duped.